Today on the blog, I have Australian author, Emily Maguire who is here to chat about her latest novel and her publishing journey. Emily has been shortlisted for the 2017 Miles Franklin Award for her novel, An Isolated Incident which explores two women, a murder and the media’s coverage of the death, set in a regional town.
Hi Emily, thank you for taking the time to pop by and answer some questions. Firstly, congratulations on being shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. What would it mean for you to win this prize?
Thank you! It’s a real thrill to be shortlisted. So many books that’ve meant the world to me have been Miles Franklin winners. To have mine listed amongst them on the winner’s roll would be a total spin out.
For readers who are yet to pick up your book, can you describe An Isolated Incident in just five words?
Sisterly love. Brutal murder. Rage.
What made you decide to challenge the tropes of the crime fiction genre?
Crime fiction is such a huge genre with great diversity in both the kinds of stories and the ways in which they’re told, so I never thought of this book as challenging the genre as a whole. What I wanted to do was write about the aftermath of a murder not from the point of view of those trying to solve the crime, but from the point of view of someone who knows why the crime mattered. I wanted to dig into the question of what is lost from the world when a woman is murdered. What does her death do to those who loved her the most? The attempt to solve the crime happens in the background; the foreground is the grief and rage and love of the victim’s sister.
An Isolated Incident explores the lives of the victim’s family, the community where the crime occurs and the associated media coverage. What kind of research did you have to do to ensure you told their stories in a realistic way?
In work unrelated to this book I’ve spent time with survivors of violent crime and those people were always in my mind while I was writing. I also read a lot of narratives by and about people who had come through enormous media storms. And I immersed myself in crime reporting – both daily news and long-form, paying attention to the ways in which victims, survivors and their families and friends can be so easily cast into characters to fit a media or societal narrative.
An Isolated Incident is not your first novel. Can you describe your publishing journey?
An Isolated Incident is my 5th novel. I’ve also published two non-fiction books. I started writing seriously out of desperation and desire. I was a high school dropout working any awful job I could get and at night when I couldn’t sleep I just wrote my guts out. That frenzied writing eventually turned into a terrible novel which was made less terrible through multiple rewrites. I then won a mentorship with the late, wonderful, wonderful Liam Davison through the Australian Society of Authors. My writing improved 1000% thanks to Liam’s insights. He was able to somehow see what I was trying to do and show me how I was getting in my own way.
That first novel, Taming the Beast, was published in Australia in 2004 and then sold into a lot of overseas territories which gave me enough money to write the next novel. I’ve pretty much lived like that since: write a terrible draft, work hard to make it better and then cross my fingers that a publisher buys it so I have some time and money to write the next one.
What can readers expect from you next?
I’m working on a non-fiction book about the history of feminist activism and an historical novel set in the Torres Straits.
And just for fun, here’s a few questions to give us insight into your writing process. When writing, do you prefer…
Coffee, tea or hot chocolate? Coffee. Buckets of it.
Plotting, pantsing or both? Pantsing to start, plotting once I’ve written my way into something I think could be a story.
Quiet solitude or background noise? Love quiet solitude but I have to be able to knuckle down and work whenever I have the chance so have learnt to tolerate all kinds of rackets.
A warm, sunny day or a cold, rainy day? Either, neither, whatever. = When I’m writing the outside world doesn’t exist.
Typing or writing with a pen and notebook. Typing.
Thank you so much for stopping by Emily, and good luck with the Miles Franklin Literary Award!